In this situation, I must decide who I am going to side with: the patient who wants to keep their child, or the parents, who want their child to have an abortion. I will first need to learn about what the patient knows about pregnancy and motherhood to determine if she’s capable of making an informed decision, so I will ask her directly what she knows about those things. Then, to understand her parents’ side of the argument and remain impartial, I will ask her parents why they think she should get an abortion. My main priority in this situation is to make sure the patient is secure in her decision and that she understands the consequences pregnancy has on her short and long-term future, especially in terms of health. To get a better idea of where she stands, I will follow up with a question about what she plans to do when the baby is born.
After a thorough consultation with the patient, I will begin questioning the parents. I will start by asking them why they think their daughter shouldn’t go through with the pregnancy. I would want to follow up their response to this question with another about what they think will happen to the baby once their daughter gives birth. The goal here is to collect as much information as possible to ensure that the patient comprehends the gravity of the situation. After assessing the capacity of the patient and I can verify that she is correctly informed, understands her situation, and can make a reasonable judgement, then I will explain to the patient and her family that she has the right to make her own decision. If the parents continue to protest, I will explain that I’ve found no reason to disavow autonomy, but that I will continue to support the patient and answer any questions they may have.
In this situation, it’s important for a physician to advocate for the patient’s autonomy. Both involved parties may have reasonable sides to their argument, so my job is to facilitate a productive conversation and more importantly, that the patient is capable of making a sound decision with the information provided. Even though the parents may feel that their daughter is making a mistake, I can make sure everyone can feel secure in the decision the patient makes by providing as much information as I can about pregnancy. The bottom line is that when patient autonomy is questioned, the physician needs to respect and defend it if necessary. (421 words)